A family is trying to get a suburban Philadelphia school district to change its “threat assessment” policy for reporting their 6-year-old daughter with Down syndrome to police after she pretended to shoot her teacher with her finger.
Maggie Gaines has appealed to the Teddyffrin-Easstown School District in Chester County, about 22 miles northwest of Philadelphia, to have officials use more common sense when reporting incidents to police.
“She really didn’t understand what she was saying, and having Down syndrome is one aspect, but I’m sure all 6-year-olds don’t really know what that means,” Gaines told KYW-TV, the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia. “Now, there is a record at the police that says she made a threat to her teacher.”
In November, 6-year-old Margot Gaines reportedly became frustrated with her teacher at Valley Forge Elementary School, pointed her finger and said, “I shoot you,” reports said.
She was taken to the office of Principal Rebecca Wills, who quickly determined the little girl posed no danger. A “threat assessment” team was then convened, as per policy according to the Daily Local News, which recommended no disciplinary action and classified the incident as a “transient threat.”
Mother decries school officials for calling police on 6-year-old daughter who ‘shot’ teacher with finger
Maggie Gaines was notified that the incident would be reported to police, which is also district policy.
“When district staff become aware of a potential student threat, policy and Regulation 5401 are followed,” the district said in an email to the Daily Local News. “Policy and regulation … specifies that threat assessment teams consult with police.
“Consultation is not the same as making a police report and asking for an investigation. It allows the district to receive an opinion from law enforcement regarding the level of threat, but equally important allows agencies to confer and use the information they have to plan for appropriate supports. Consultation does not create a criminal or juvenile record for the child…”
Even though police have said any report is confidential, Maggie Gaines said officials overreacted and believes the reporting of the incident to police will have ramifications for her daughter.
“They get this phone call and I was fine with everything up until calling the police,” Maggie Gaines said. “And I said, ‘You absolutely do not have to call the police. You know, this is ridiculous.’”
Six-year-old reported to police for ‘shooting’ teacher with finger
Maggie Gaines appears to have the backing of local Pennsylvania state Sen. Andy Dinniman, who also questioned the judgment of school officials.
“While I understand the paramount importance of school safety, I am concerned about what appears to be a lack of judgment and accountability in interpreting state law and applying such policies,” Dinniman told the Local Daily News in a statement. “At the end of the day, it is still not clear how this situation was handled in a way that enhanced school safety.”
Just when I thought that the unholy alliance of political correctness and gun hysteria couldn't possibly get any worse, we have this lovely little girl who pretended to shoot her teacher with her finger, and got nuked from orbit for her thoughtcrime.
— Willis Eschenbach (@WEschenbach) February 6, 2020
He told KYW that he felt the district acted “blindly.”
“As a state senator, an educator, and a parent, I am concerned when I hear that such important decisions appear to be guided blindly by written policy or legal interpretation without those in positions of authority using their judgment, experience, and commonsense to weigh in,” he said. “Furthermore, I am alarmed that a school seems to be acting as an extension of the police department in promulgating data and records on children as young as kindergarteners.”
Those who reacted on Twitter decried “gun hysteria.”